But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! – Galatians 5:2-23
Think about how a disease gradually spreads and can infect people you come into contact with. This is anger. Or think about trying to keep something closed in a pressure cooker, but it keeps building up until it’s ready to explode. This is anger when you try to just internalize it instead of dealing with it.
This is why self-treatment for anger often doesn’t work and can even make things worse.
Picture standing in a cove in front of the ocean and being told to stop the waves from rolling in. Such a thing is impossible!
No matter how much you try, you can never prevent the tide from coming in. The water would just flow around you and keep going. Your attempts to stop it would be futile and frustrating. This is because whenever there’s a void, water will fill it.
Anger is the same way: when there’s a void in your life, anger can immediately take the opportunity to fill that void.
Instead of fruitlessly trying to stop the waves on your own, you need a wall with a firm foundation to hold back the water, and you need to fill the cove with something else that the water can’t displace.
In the same way, holding back anger requires something much bigger and stronger than you can create with your own effort. You need that wall of protection, and you need something else to fill you to prevent the anger from seeping in.
We see a remedy for anger in Galatians when Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
8 Ways for Men to Overcome Anger Issues
When we are full of the fruit of the Spirit, we won’t have room in our hearts and lives for anger. This is true for all people, but we’ll be applying these principles to the lives of men here. Each fruit works in its own way to counteract the power and effects of anger.
Dwelling on each fruit, in turn, can lead to a time of meditation, which is an effective anger management technique in and of itself.
The word love in this context speaks of a general love for humankind. This love, like the other fruits, comes from the Spirit, meaning it grows out of God’s presence in our lives.
This can also be described as compassion or empathy, and it applies in many contexts, including in marriage and family relationships, friendships, and other kinds of interactions. At its root, love means that you care for others’ well-being.
The root of sinful anger is not concern for others, it’s concern for yourself (i.e. selfishness). There are times when anger is justified, such as when the basic rights and dignity of yourself or someone else are being violated. But sinful anger arises from placing your selfish desires or felt needs over someone else’s wellbeing.
Love helps you deal with the discomfort of not always having your expectations met or your desires fulfilled. You will choose to prioritize others’ needs over your own. And you won’t have a short fuse when things don’t go your way.
Finding joy means finding what brings you the deepest happiness. When we have true joy, we can experience it even when we face trials and grief in this life, but that kind of joy only comes from God. Earthly happiness is temporary, but joy can be permanent.
So how do you choose joy? Joy flows out of a recognition that all good comes from God and that He can and will work any situation for good. This doesn’t mean we’ll never experience anger, but we don’t make it the center of our lives.
Choosing to focus on God’s goodness allows us to devote our mental energy to positive ideas instead of negative ruminations. This prevents anger from becoming a stronghold. You can’t focus on both joy and anger at once.
Peace and anger are diametrically opposed. Having a peaceful heart means that despite what is going on around you, no matter what triggers are presented, sinful anger won’t be your response. Of course, this is a supernatural heart condition. But rest assured that it is possible through God’s power and the indwelling of His Spirit.
No matter what is going on around you, you can still experience God’s miraculous peace. Even though now you might feel like you are helpless when anger surges inside of you, know that God can give you His peace. It’s nothing you can conjure up, but you can ask Him to give it to you.
Patience is an ability to restrain the inner response that leads to anger. Anger rarely exists by itself; there is almost always another emotion along with it. This is so common that anger is sometimes called a “secondary” emotion (implying the existence of a primary emotion).
Let’s say you were asked, “Why are you angry?” Your answer may include the event you believe caused you to be angry.
Then you might be asked, “How did that [event] make you feel?” Then you’d be able to describe the initial hurt, sadness, or betrayal – your primary emotional response to the event.
When we have patience, we can fully feel and work through our primary emotions, instead of them being hidden beneath the strong sense of anger. And addressing those emotions quickly can sometimes prevent anger from welling up inside.
This doesn’t happen overnight. Patience, like a muscle, is developed over time. The more you practice, the stronger it will become.
Consider the role that patience might play in your responses to the situations you face in everyday life. How can you slow down your responses and examine what you’re really feeling?
How can you practice waiting for even small things you want so that you don’t always expect instant gratification? Ask God to give you more patience and know that there is grace for when you run out.
Joy, peace, and patience are all more “inner” fruits that emphasize the attitude of our hearts. Kindness is an outward action flowing from an inward reality.
Part of the destructive power of anger is the way it leads us to treat other people. Treating others kindly even when we don’t “feel” like it will improve their lives and our own. Acting with kindness benefits everyone.
Living a kind life means we are focused outward rather than inward and focused on how we can bless others rather than stewing in discontent and bitterness. Over time, kindness becomes a habit.
It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular; instead, it’s an attitude of blessing and “going the extra mile” that can characterize all the details of our day-to-day lives. If you’re constantly considering how you can show kindness to the person in front of you, you’ll start to run out of room for anger.
This doesn’t mean you’ll always feel kind. It doesn’t mean your patience won’t run out. It doesn’t mean others will repay your kindness. There is grace for all of this, and kindness has intrinsic benefits even if it’s never reciprocated.
Goodness can sound like a vague concept, but a simple definition is that you’re doing the right thing in all areas of your life. Sometimes anger can be tricky in that it comes from your frustration when you feel like a failure. You become angry with yourself and you eventually turn it onto others.
Don’t just try to reduce your anger level; focus on living well and with a clear conscience before God. If you are His child through faith in Christ, He can and will enable you to walk in obedience. Through the death of Jesus on the cross, you are free from the guilt and shame of sin. You are perfect in His sight. All goodness comes from Him, and His Spirit is the one who produces the outward evidence of it in your life.
What does faithfulness mean? Does it mean you’re committed to your spouse and don’t cheat on them? Yes, but it’s not limited to marriage. It means you keep your word and carry out your responsibilities when it comes to work, family, friendships, other commitments, and all of life.
When you don’t keep your commitments, tension often arises, whether from your own stress and guilt or from others’ frustration and unmet expectations. This tension is the perfect fertile ground for anger, so avoid it by being faithful.
When you feel like you have to defend your lack of responsibility, this often leads to being reactive and angry. Instead, follow through on your responsibilities and you’ll give less of a foothold to anger.
When you hear the word gentle, what do you think of? Holding a newborn? Handling an intricate piece of machinery? Transporting a fragile object? Gentleness means creating a safe environment for those around you.
Anger is the opposite of gentleness. It creates a hostile environment, full of tension and unease. When you focus on gentleness, this naturally creates space for growth in your own life and others’.
When approaching a conversation with gentleness, you’ll be displacing personal ambition and ego. Anger won’t be likely to arise when your goal is to provide safety for the other person.
You might have been trying to control your anger for a long time now. But self-control doesn’t exist in isolation from the other fruits of the Spirit. And like all the fruits, it only grows when God Himself dwells in our hearts and empowers us to become more like Jesus.
If you don’t have His Spirit, self-control can be a futile endeavor. But through Him by faith, we receive the supernatural ability to overcome our natural urges and responses. Part of this process can happen when you practice self-control in other areas, knowing that you don’t have to be immediately satisfied in every area of life.
To return to the metaphor we started with, holding back anger requires more than digging in your heels with determination. You need walls of protection and something to fill the void in your heart. The fruit of the Spirit provides the protection and the fullness that we need to keep anger out of our lives.
Consider your anger issues and ask yourself what emotions lie underneath your anger, whether it be hurt, grief, bitterness, etc. Frustration is merely a mild way to describe anger, so dig underneath your frustration too.
When you’ve identified some of the emotions underlying your anger, revisit the descriptions of the fruit of the Spirit. Which ones seem out of reach and outside your everyday experience? If you try to grow in all of these areas at once, it can seem overwhelming, so focus on the ones that you need the most growth in.
Once you’ve chosen a fruit of the Spirit to start with, take it before God in prayer daily and meditate on this characteristic. Ask Him to grow this fruit in you. Examine areas of your life where you need it. Remind yourself of it in practical ways daily.
Anger can feel like an unstoppable bombardment, but with God’s help, we are not abandoned to it. The process of conquering anger issues is long and difficult. Acknowledge that you will fail along the way. Be honest with yourself and note your triggers and environment when you are getting angry. How does the fruit of the Spirit apply to these situations?
Don’t isolate while you’re going through this. Counseling can be a safe place to uncover the hidden roots of your anger and formulate practical solutions to conquer it.
There is hope! You can find ways to overcome your anger instead of living with its destructive force. Contact one of our counselors today to start your journey of freedom from anger.
“Angry Adult”, Courtesy of Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Love”, Courtesy of Tim Marshall, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Patience”, Courtesy of Umit Bulut, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Good Intentions,” courtesy of Matthias Ripp, Flickr Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)